Murphy signs 6-bill legislation package addressing opioid crisis

The opioid crisis in New Jersey — yes, it’s still having a severe impact in the state — is one issue where Gov. Phil Murphy has found common ground with his predecessor, Gov. Chris Christie, who was one of the first political leaders in the country to bring attention to the issue.

Last Friday, Murphy signed a six-bill legislative package into law to address the state’s opioid crisis through overdose prevention and recovery resilience.

The six bills focus on overdose prevention by expanding low-barrier access to naloxone and bridges to medication assisted treatment; strengthening public health data; and building resiliency among children and families impacted by the opioid crisis.

A quick look at the six bills:

  • S3491: Revises and expands authorization for any person or entity to obtain, distribute and administer opioid antidotes;
  • S3803: Permits certain paramedics to administer buprenorphine;
  • A5595: Requires Division of Consumer Affairs to publish retail price of certain opioid antidotes;
  • A5597: Permits school districts to administer student health surveys after prior written notification to parents and legal guardians;
  • S3814: Requires DCF or court to consider placement of children with relatives or kinship guardians when making placement decision; makes changes to certain standards for initiating petitions to terminate parental rights;
  • A5703: Requires certain health insurers, Medicaid, NJ FamilyCare, SHBP and SEHBP, to cover naloxone without imposing prior authorization requirements.

“Over the last three years, my administration, alongside our partners in the Legislature and many passionate advocates, has worked to meaningfully combat the opioid crisis that has held our state in its grip for far too long,” Murphy said. “We have worked tirelessly to erase the stigma associated with opioid use disorder and people who use drugs, close gaps in treatment, expand access and use of life-saving medicines like naloxone, and support the work of syringe exchange programs and harm reduction centers.

“The fight against the opioid epidemic has required a focus on harm reduction by providing safe and compassionate access points to care and by securing funding for vital programs and recovery services. By signing these bills today, we are strengthening the foundation of these critical resources and programs, keeping families together and furthering our commitment to saving lives and ending the opioid epidemic in New Jersey.”

State Sen. Joe Vitale (D-Woodbridge), the chair of the Senate’s Health, Human Services and Seniors Committee and a leading voice on health care, applauded Murphy for his efforts.

“Drug overdose is the leading cause of accidental death in the United States, with opioids being the most common drug, causing approximately 70% of all drug overdose deaths,” he said. “Many of these lives could have been saved with the use of opioid antidotes, however; there is currently only a limited amount of individuals authorized to administer these antidotes. These new laws will expand who can deliver antidotes to a larger group of individuals, which will be crucial in saving countless lives from overdose.”

Assemblyman Herb Conaway (D-Delran), the only medical doctor in the Legislature, also offered his support.

“As a doctor, I know just how important it is to prepare for and respond to medical emergencies patients may encounter,” he said. “With thousands of lives lost to overdoses each year, we need a system in place to help residents struggling with substance use disorders who may be at risk for overdoses.”